While our farming is high touch, our winemaking is very low touch. We know that great wine comes from great grapes. Our world-renowned winemaker, Jeffrey Patterson, believes in letting the wine express itself with a minimal amount of human intervention. Jeffrey studied viticulture and oenology at UC Davis, joined Mount Eden Vineyards in 1981 and in 1983 became head winemaker. Today Jeffrey and Ellie Patterson own Mount Eden Vineyards and Jeffrey continues to make some of the very best California wines. Jeffrey’s wines are consistently highly ranked by Wine Spectator.
Great winemaking begins at harvest. First the brix and acid need to be right, but there’s more than chemistry in the timing of harvest. The pips (grape seeds) need to be just right, brown and crunchy with a nutty taste to the bite. The feel of the grapes need to be firm but not too firm. The winemaker’s final test is the taste of the grapes. It’s not just chemistry; the timing of harvest is also an art.
Once the winemaker declares the grapes to be ready, they are harvested very early the next morning. Before the sun has warmed the vineyard, the grapes are in the fermenters at the winery. Our winemaking takes place at Mount Eden Winery, which overlooks our vineyards. Fermented on natural yeasts in stainless steel temperature controlled fermenters and aged in a combination of new and aged French and American oak barrels to provide just the right flavors, our wines then develop in underground caves until the winemaker declares they are ready to bottle.
We enhance the complexity and flavors of our Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot by blending with up to 25% of other varietals produced in our vineyard. Our primary crop is Cabernet Sauvignon but we also produce Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot in addition to Chardonnay. Selecting the blend for each vintage is a key step in the winemaking process and occurs in January about 16 months after harvest. With our winemaker, Jeffrey Patterson taking the lead, we gather a panel of one or two sommeliers, some family members and members of the winemaking team from Mount Eden to sample each block and each varietal. Then we start the long process of trying various combinations, changing as little as a single percent at a time. Once we agree on the blend, the wines are blended and put back in barrels in the cave where they continue to develop before bottling in the summer of that year.
Once bottled our wines leave the winery and spend at least a year bottle aging in tightly temperate controlled underground wine caves built for that purpose on our property. Only when we feel that they are ready are they released for sale. Our wines fully express the terroir of our mountainside vineyards.